Groups are susceptible to downward spirals.
Momentum can move in either a positive or negative direction. Thoughts feed off other thoughts. Feelings feed off other feelings. Attitudes are contagious. In a group setting, all it takes is one person to infect the others with a critical spirit. Negativity is like pollution: it’s easier to notice when you’re visiting from out-of-town than when you live with it everyday. When a team gets stuck in the loop of a downward spiral, it’s often easier to continue the slide than to reverse it.
So, how do you stop a downward spiral?
Incrementally. If you find yourself in a downward spiral, introduce something positive to your routine. One slight, positive adjustment alters the course of a meeting or a day. If you don’t like the direction you’re going, steer a different direction.
Instantly. There are times when a negative environment must be confronted head-on. If a team persists in making critical comments that undermine the morale of other teammates, you might have to say, “That’s not an appropriate way to talk.”
Preventative. The best way to deal with the downward spiral is to avoid it altogether. Nip negativity in the bud. Put in place a culture that celebrates the good. Emphasize gratitude.
Downward spirals can be reversed. Upward spirals are just as possible as downward ones. Remember, momentum can move in either a positive or negative direction.